Ethics & Breeding Front Assembly Type Type & Structure


Type and Style

1. by Patrick Ormos

In our two previous articles, I have talked about how to understand the difference between type and style, and given some suggestions for learning about type. In this article I will try to give some suggestions for learning about style.

Breed type is that collection of specific characteristics which when taken together separate one breed from another. Style describes the different ways in which those specific defining characteristics of breed type are expressed.

Which are the specific characteristics which define breed type?

Several authors have written about the categories which can be used to understand breed type in various breeds. Borrowing from all of them, I would suggest the following:

1. Head
2. Outline
3. Temperament

While there are other categories which could be used (e.g. color, coat, etc.), I do feel that they are neither distinctive enough nor under enough control to qualify as elements of style. They do qualify as elements of breed type which differentiate Cardigans from other breeds, most notably Pembrokes. In other words, while blue merles are distinctive in Cardigans as opposed to Pembrokes, we cannot say that one kennel produces a certain color/shade of blue merles while another bloodline produces a different color/shade of blue merles, nor can we say that for brindles, or reds, or any other color. Similarly, we cannot point to one particular kennel or bloodline which produces one specific kind of coat.

The same cannot be said however for the three characteristics which I have identified above. We can point to a bloodline and identify it by their heads, and we can point out a bloodline based on their temperaments, and we can certainly identify bloodlines based on their


When looking at heads, try to identify the parts and pieces, as well as the whole impression. Look at (1) ears (shape, set, and size), look at eyes (shape, set, size), (2) the width of the backskull, (3) the shape of the bone which makes up the zygomatic arch, and the chiselling (or lack) underneath the eye [in other words, does the dog have prominent cheeks or not – this, by the way, is also a breed type issue] (4) the depth and placement of the stop, (5) the shape of the eyebrow ridge, (6) the shape of the underjaw and the bite, and (7) the ratio of muzzle to skull (yes, I know it’s supposed to be 3:5, but there is a lot of variation in just how that works out). It is the combination of these seven characteristics which will give a certain “look” to a headpiece – in other words, style.

As you look at all these pieces, look again at the whole. Pick out heads which are especially pleasing to you, and then dissect them so that you can understand how all the pieces work together to give the whole. Once you’ve done that bit of work, go back to the heads which especially please you and do a pedigree analysis. Can you discover a common ancestor? Is there more than one? Look back into the history books and find pictures of dogs’ heads which catch your attention. Again, do the pedigree analysis. The outcome of all that work will give you a sense of what styles of heads you like, and where to go to find them. Just as important as doing this work for the ones you like is doing the same work for the ones you dislike. You will learn just as much from that kind of careful analysis as the other.

For example, I loved the Kentwood heads, but found them a little too extreme for my taste. As I tried to understand them better, I discovered that they were a bit narrow in the backskull. I also loved the headpiece on a UK dog called Blewburton Buzzard, and accidentally produced a beautiful head in one of my early litters on Phi’s Flower Power – and that is what sent me back to trying to figure out what I liked about it, and how to go about getting it again. When I looked into the UK handbooks, I discovered that I consistently chose the well-known Arnallt/Mudwin click for heads and for outlines.


This is one of the most complex gestalts or wholes to analyze and break down into pieces. So much goes into it. First, we look at topline (from head, through neck, withers, back, loin, proportional relationship between withers, back and loin, croup and tailset and culminating in the tail), (2) underline from jaw through neck, prosternum, keel and tuckup, (3) forequarters (angulation, set, placement of the front legs under the body, etc.), (4) rearquarters (angulation, breadth of thigh, length of hock), (5) bone shape and size, and (6) leg length. Note that while the
depth of ribbing can easily be seen in outline, shape of ribbing cannot, and that, too, must be taken into account in determining style.

Once again, do NOT start with your own dog. It is very, very difficult to be objective with your own favorite. Instead, start with the history books. Look for photos of dog who appeal to your eye, and then try to dissect them. Go to the National or other regional specialties and do the same thing. Look, look, look, until you can see your ideal in your mind’s eye and have a good notion of what the parts are which need to go into your ideal whole, your gestalt. Then go back and do the pedigree analysis. Which dogs look like what you want? Which dogs produce what you want? Where can you go to get what you want? Now go back and look at your own dog. How does s/he stack up? What qualities does s/he have that you want to keep? What do you need to fix? Now you have some ideas about future breedings.

Parmel Dambuster was a stallion of a dog who fits my ideal. Blewburton Buzzard was another dog who has the look I want. Now note that I have never seen those dogs in person. I know them only from their photos. But that is the place to begin – with a mind’s eye picture of perfection. Cardigans come lots of different styles – one person’s preference is another’s anathema. Breeding success will never come your way unless you know what you are looking for.


It may seem strange to list temperament as a characteristic of style, yet it is one of the most easily recongized elements. How often have you hear people say, “Oh, they’re all shy from that kennel.” or “Look at that extroverted silliness. That’s typical of this kennel.” or “Yikes! I couldn’t live with the barkers from that kennel.” We notice temperament right away, and the impression sticks with us. We can influence temperament tremendously through the way we raise and socialize our dogs, but there is certainly an inherited component to it. What kind of temperament do you like or want? Who has it and how do you go about getting it? Do the same kind of pedigree analysis to come up with the answers, and then go out and get it.

I hope that these brief introduction to the elements of style has helped you as you go about planning your bloodline.

Patrick Ormos



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